Initially launched in April 1973 as the Publica Starlet 40 series, the Starlet was offered with 1000 and 1200cc engines. Generally the car looked like a shortened Corolla. Variants available were 2-door Sedan, and 3-door wagon. The 4-door Sedan came in October 1973. Grades are Standard, Deluxe, Hi-Deluxe, ST, and SR.
The 60 series, introduced in 1978 was better known, being the first to be extensively sold outside Japan. It was offered with 993 (KP60 2K), 1,166 (KP62 3K) and 1,290cc (KP61 4K) engines. Three-door and 5-door hatchbacks were offered in export markets, although a distinctive 5-door wagon variant was sold in Japan, Hong Kong and Germany. Trim levels were Standard, Deluxe (DX), GL, XL, S, and SE.
In 1980 the car was facelifted to include square headlights and a second facelift followed in 1983 to incorporate a slant nose front end, and lower hatch opening.
The KP61 was the only Starlet ever sold in the USA from 1981 to 1984, until the Corolla FX replaced it in 1985. The 1981–1982 models came with standard 5-speed manual transmission and tachometer. It is an equivalent to other markets' S model. The 1983–1984 models were additionally offered with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) with the 4K engine, but with 4-speed manual transmission, and similar to other markets' XLi model.